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UN: Offending The Faithful Hazardous To Health

As if the U.N. weren't ineffectual enough, Doudou Diene, U.N. expert on racism has recently blown minds the world 'round by noting that defaming religion can stir people up. Especially Islam. Leaving aside the question of why supposed progressives conflate … Read More

By / September 17, 2007

As if the U.N. weren't ineffectual enough, Doudou Diene, U.N. expert on racism has recently blown minds the world 'round by noting that defaming religion can stir people up. Especially Islam. Leaving aside the question of why supposed progressives conflate race with religion time and again, who gave this guy a job? Most likely somebody who also isn't savvy enough to notice the difference between a race and a belief system. Guess we can't leave that aside. It turns out the problem with this "debate" is a lack of discrimination–not discrimination against people or beliefs, but good old fashioned discrimination, the kind whose antonym is 'indiscriminant.'

Since when has challenging deeply held notions about the nature of reality and morality not been a threat to peace? Given that said notions can be both erroneous and destructive, who thinks that we should refrain? Plenty of people it seems:

African and Islamic countries welcomed the assessment and called for moves to draft an international treaty that would compel states to act against any form of defamation of religion.

If the claims of religion hadn't ever been challenged, or at least put in a box, dulled-down, re-worked, or at times completely eschewed, the human race would likely be extinct. Germs instead of demons. Medicine and moxie instead of prayer. It's been working out splendidly for the materialists of the world who have been saving humanity ten times a year for the last century or so. After all that, you'd expect a little respect, but the faithful have been ungrateful; delighting in the advances of science, popping Penicillin, while simultaneously espousing some of our era's most destructive ideas (the afterlife still being near the top of that list). Do they deserve an audience, much less a law protecting them should they choose to behave badly?

Now would come the customary attack, industrialization having made killing en masse easier, the "secular" ideologies of Nazism and communism (which looked and behaved like ultimate psycho cult religions), chemical warfare, the atomic bomb, and global warming. But no matter how impressively horrendous sounding it all is, this laundry list never manages to make the point intended. It does not follow that faith is therefore good and the doctrines of the faithful deserve to be shielded from critique or the normal parameters of free speech. Does anybody find it odd that those devoted to Britney Spears aren't expected to respond to her public ridicule with pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails, while those devoted to Muhammad are? That expectation in itself–the expectation that undergirds this entire discussion–is profoundly disrespectful to Muslims.

Another bit of savvy could benefit this argument as well–distinguishing the faithful from a faith. It is for the law to protect people, not the worldview to which they subscribe. I might well get a royal head bashing if I were to walk into the wrong room full of football fans telling them that the MVP they all adore can't play ball. We negotiate these sorts of situations daily, but never do we decide that any one group or idea gets privilege under the law.

Continuing to bring this proposition up in the public sphere is only functioning as a daily reinforcement of an impoverished notion of responsibility. It is for critics to critique with respect for the person, even if not for the religion. It is for the criticized to respond in a civil manner. Neither is entitled, no matter what has been said or done, to threaten or inflict harm on the other. Last I checked, the saying doesn't go Sticks And Stones Will Break Your Bones If Your Words Happen to Hurt Me. Rather than just accepting that this is how certain offended religious people will act, has it occurred to anyone at the U.N. that perhaps a greater service to humanity might be a rejection of this sort of behavior in favor of re-asserting basic principles of civility and public discourse, regardless of which books inform your version of truth?

 

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